Fourth seed Elina Svitolina revealed she had been dealing with injury issues at the Australian Open after successfully negotiating a tricky second round match against Katerina Siniakova on Wednesday.
The Ukrainian conceded only her second set in seven matches this year but ultimately found a way past her Czech opponent 4-6 6-2 6-1 as the temperatures soared on Rod Laver Arena.
“It was very tough for me today,” the 23-year-old said. “I didn’t feel good and hopefully I can recover and be ready for next match. I had some issues before the start of the (tournament), it was like big question that I’m going to step on court for my first round.”
The next match will be against 15-year-old compatriot Marta Kostyuk, the 521-ranked qualifier who doubled down on her maiden grand slam victory on Monday with a 6-3 7-5 win over local Olivia Rogowska on Wednesday.
“First time I heard about her when she won here,” said Svitolina. “It’s pretty cool that I’m playing someone from my country. It’s gonna be very exciting for me and hopefully I can be ready for that match.”
Svitolina had been firming as one of the favourites in a wide open race for the Melbourne Park crown after winning the Brisbane International warm-up event.
Her first set performance against Siniakova clearly sounded a warning to Svitolina about letting any kind of complacency creep into her head as she earned six break points but failed to convert a single one of them.
World number 59 Siniakova, who also took Svitolina to three sets at the U.S. Open last year, really went for her shots, hitting 11 winners, and it was she who managed to get the upper hand in an arm-wrestle of a 50-minute set.
Svitolina finally got her first break at the eighth attempt to go 2-0 up in the second set.
Siniakova never gave up but was not the same threat after a seven-minute medical timeout in the second set and Svitolina claimed the victory with an unreturnable serve after two hours and 14 minutes.
“The second and third set was 6-2 6-1, but I felt like it was 7-6 in the third or 8-6 in the third,” said Svitolina. “It was very tough for me today. Not feeling great and was not focused on the right things.”
Dream Grand Slam debut for 15-year-old Kostyuk
Ukrainian 15-year-old Kostyuk became the youngest player to reach the third round of a grand slam in over 20 years when she defeated local wildcard Olivia Rogowska on Wednesday. Croatia’s Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who made the third round of the 1997 U.S. Open also at 15, was the previous youngest player to advance to that stage of a grand slam.
In her grand slam debut and first main draw appearance at a WTA tournament, qualifier Kostyuk had already become the youngest player to win a match at the Australian Open since Martina Hingis’s quarter-final run in 1996, when the Swiss was 15 years and four months old.
The reigning Australian Open junior champion’s 6-3 7-5 win over Rogowska at Margaret Court Arena made 521st-ranked Kostyuk A$142,500 ($113,500) richer in prize money, having earned only $6,733 coming into the match.
“Well, I already know a little bit where I’m going to spend this, but I didn’t really think, because, you know, like (making) some big investment or something,” Kostyuk told reporters.
“Now I’m still keeping money. It’s like I got it and I go and spend. Maybe I will get the presents for my family, first of all, of course. Because I have a big family. And then for myself a bit. Yeah.”
Appearing completely at ease during her post-match media duties, Kostyuk said she still had to process her achievement before worrying about her next round.
“I still didn’t think about that match,” she said. “I’m still, with emotions, I’m still with this match, and it’s my sixth match here. I feel like with every match, I’m doing better and better.”
The daughter of tennis parents, home-schooled Kostyuk is managed by Ukrainian former top-10 player Ivan Ljubicic, a member of Roger Federer’s entourage.
She despatched Chinese first round opponent Peng Shuai, a former U.S. Open semi-finalist, 6-2 6-2 in the first round and bashed 22 winners against 26-year-old Rogowska.
“I didn’t feel like she was 15 at all,” Rogowska told reporters. “Yeah, honestly, the power of her shots were — I didn’t feel like she was 15, but obviously, yeah, she’s swinging freely … I feel she’s going to be a dangerous player when she grows up.”
Despite her comprehensive win over the Australian, Kostyuk said she had struggled to control her emotions and was fuming when given a code violation for coaching after her mum gestured at her from the players’ box.
“I was so mad, because I didn’t see what mom was showing me. Then when the referee said code violation, I was, like, ‘What? I didn’t even see her, like — like, I swear I didn’t see what she was showing me’.”
After the match, her mum made another intervention, swiping her phone away from her before she could check congratulatory messages.
“Well, I take the phone, and I had to eat at the same time,” said Kostyuk. “My mom told me leave the phone and eat properly. Because I didn’t have normal breakfast, that’s why I felt quite bad today on court.”